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Budgeting First-time Homebuyer Homebuying Homebuying Tips Mortgages Purchase

How To Decide The Best Place To Live

What do lush green lawns, occasional cul-de-sacs, mainstream grocery stores, and annual block parties have in common? Neighborhood. And when you’ve got home buying on your mind, thoughts about your ideal future neighborhood shouldn’t be too far behind. Choosing the right location is one of the most important parts of home buying because you need to find an area that supports your lifestyle and fits your budget.

Here are a few steps that will make the decision process easier. 

Step One: Know Your Budget 

Your budget is the first thing you should consider when choosing a potential home location. Why? Because if you don’t know how much you can afford, you’ll struggle to find the right home. Consider how much you could put toward a down payment while maintaining some of your savings. Then, think about how much you can reasonably pay each month toward your mortgage. 

Some areas are better suited for average-wage home seekers who have figured out their budget. These cities are among Real Estate News’ top 10: 

Seattle, Washington

Metro Population: 3,871,323

Median Home Price: $675,237

Average Annual Salary: $68,460

Huntsville, Alabama

Metro Population: 457,003

Median Home Price: $192,667

Average Annual Salary: $55,980

Boulder, Colorado

Metro Population: 322,510

Median Home Price: $528,833

Average Annual Salary: $67,160

Sarasota, Florida

Metro Population: 803,709

Median Home Price: $387,630

Average Annual Salary: $46,040

Austin, Texas

Metro Population: 2,114,441

Median Home Price: $377,693

Average Annual Salary: $55,190

 

Cost of Living

Researching the cost of living for any potential home location is a must. Coupled with your budget, understanding the cost of living in certain areas can help you decide whether you want to spend a little more to stay in the city or choose a suburb on the outskirts to save money. Forbes highlights a list of locations to consider if you’re looking for the most affordable home-buying options in the country: 

Memphis, Tennessee

Metro Population: 651,011

Median Home Price: $140,000

Average Annual Salary: $57,538 

Cost of Living Index: 17% more affordable than the nation’s average

Toledo, Ohio

Metro Population: 275,116 

Median Home Price: $109,900

Average Annual Salary: $58,930

Cost of Living Index: 8% more affordable than the nation’s average

Akron, Ohio

Metro Population: 197,375 

Median Home Price: $118,950

Average Annual Salary: $62,000

Cost of Living Index: 6% more affordable than the nation’s average

Detroit, Michigan

Metro Population: 672,351 

Median Home Price: $70,000

Average Annual Salary: $64,357

Cost of Living Index: 3% more affordable than the nation’s average

 

Even in the most affordable areas, you’ll find that some suburban neighborhoods are more expensive than others. Your ideal home location should strike a near-perfect balance between how much you can afford and how easily you see yourself making a life there. 

Step Two: Consider Every Factor

There’s more to choosing the right home location than affordability. All areas have different benefits that they bring to the table, and you need to keep those in mind when deciding where you want to live.  

Transportation

How you get from place to place is an incredibly important factor when deciding where to settle down. If you’re a fan of efficient public transportation, an area in or close to the city might be best for you. Prefer to drive your own car? Then you won’t need to limit yourself to subway-heavy living locations.

Climate

Climate can dictate whether you should move to a specific area. Are you a fan of constant sunshine and warmth? Then snowy locations are out of the question. Do you hate dreary, rainy days? Then a western state might better suit your needs. 

Also, consider the unique expenses that come with living in certain climates. For example, if you’re thinking of moving to a mid- or southwestern location, you might want to make sure you can afford insurance that covers fire damage. Similarly, if you want a house on the beach, flood insurance should be included in your budgeting plan. 

Demographics

Get some insight into demographics before you move to an area. Consider population numbers, average person’s age, number of hospitals available, and even crime rates when deciding on a location. 

School Districts

Choosing an area with good educational options is essential for home seekers with children. But those without children also benefit from having good public schools in a prospective home location. Generally, an area with better schools means it’s of better quality overall, which will help with maintaining or increasing property values. Picking a neighborhood with a good school district would also benefit those who may not have children now but will in the future. 

Culture

Think about the cultural aspects of the places you’re considering. What events are common in the area? Is it a spot with stadiums that host frequent concerts and sporting events? Are there annual festivals? You’ll want to know these things before deciding on a move. 

Convenience

Nowadays, we build our lives around convenience, so it’s necessary to consider how much of it you want when deciding on a home location. Need restaurants within walking distance? Want a gas station on every corner? Many areas have those amenities conveniently available throughout, but having easy access to certain businesses might increase home prices. 

Appearance

If you don’t like the look of a neighborhood, you won’t like your life there. Are you a fan of sprawling trees and green pastures? Well, many metropolitan areas might not sync with your aesthetic tastes. Does the thought of a deer leaping from the woods nauseate you? Then city-life is calling. Have an irrational fear of garden gnomes? Then you probably shouldn’t pick the neighborhood where every house has a miniature elf in the middle of the yard. Just be sure the view you’re seeing is one you can’t picture yourself tiring of. 

Step Three: Get The Ball Rolling

List your deal-breakers

Before you begin touring any potential home locations, you need to make a list of things that must be a part of your future living experience. Then, tack on things that you don’t want to see in a potential neighborhood to narrow down your choices. 

Scope out the area

Now that you’ve compiled a viable list of locations you want to live in, you need to scope out those areas. 

In-person 

When visiting a potential home location in person, you’ll want to head to any place you think you might frequent if you were to move to the area—like grocery stores, shopping malls, parks, and other recreational hotspots. You may also want to visit surrounding neighborhoods to compare. Because public transport isn’t an option in some locations, you might also want to test drive your potential commutes. 

Virtual tour

If you’ve got your eye on areas a little further from your current location and you’re not ready to commit to an in-person visit yet, a self-guided virtual neighborhood tour could give you enough insight to narrow down your search. Google Street View can provide a relatively up-to-date and thorough overview to help you get the overall feel of a specific neighborhood. There are also a variety of virtual home tours available online. 

Location Decided? Lender Provided!

Finding that perfect home in that perfect location takes time, but we’re here to help you make the purchase when you’re ready! Get a quote or pre-approval letter, or contact us at mortgageright.com/contact to get the RIGHT financing for your new home!

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Budgeting Down Payment First-time Homebuyer Government Loans Homebuying Homebuying Tips Mortgages Purchase

Homeownership 101: What Are The Costs?

When faced with consistently rising rent prices and the desire to build wealth, homeownership is one of the most beneficial money moves you can make in your lifetime. But that doesn’t mean it comes without its costs. 

To avoid any surprise expenses after buying and moving into your new home, future homeowners need to understand all the costs of homeownership before signing any dotted lines.

Let’s take a look at the most common costs of owning a home so you can enter homeownership financially prepared. 

Upfront Costs

Down Payment

The most widely mentioned homeownership expenses are the out-of-pocket amounts you will need to close on your home. Typically, these upfront costs consist of your down payment and other closing costs. 

Down payments vary in amount, but they are often between 3% and 20% of a home’s price. Some government-backed loan programs, such as VA and USDA, require zero down payment; however, if you don’t qualify for a zero-down-payment loan, it will be in your best interest to save up a decent amount of money to be able to purchase your home. 

Closing Costs

Closing costs are fees that you acquire throughout the home-buying process. Closing costs consist of lender fees, taxes, insurance, title search fees, etc. They are typically between 3% and 6% of a home’s purchase price. 

Monthly Mortgage Costs

Property Taxes

When you get a mortgage, property taxes might be included in your monthly mortgage payment, which would allow your lender to hold the funds in an escrow account and pay them on your behalf. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditures Survey (CES) estimates homeowners paid an average of $3,370 in property taxes in 2019. 

Insurance

Homeownership will likely also come with an insurance cost added to your monthly mortgage payment:

  • General Home Insurance – covers loss and damage to your house, as well as the assets inside your home if a damaging event occurs and would be used to restore your home to its original value. 
  • PMI – Private mortgage insurance is a cost only applicable to conventional (or non-government-backed) loans. PMI is an “assurance fee” typically applied to monthly payments if a borrower cannot put 20% or more down on the home they purchase. PMI acts as a buffer for lenders when the risk of default is on the table while making homeownership possible for borrowers who can only put a small percentage down on the home they want.
  • MIP – A mortgage insurance premium is much like PMI, but it only applies to government-backed (FHA) loans, and it is required no matter your down-payment amount. This mortgage insurance consists of an annual MIP and UFMIP (upfront mortgage insurance premium).

Day-To-Day Costs

Once you’ve closed on your home and moved in, there are other living costs to consider aside from the expected monthly mortgage expenses.

Utilities

An umbrella term familiar to any new homeowner who was first a renter, utilities consist of all electricity, fuels, and services needed to keep your home livable. 

The 2020 Consumer Expenditures Survey (CES) supports the idea that utilities can make up a sizable chunk of monthly expenditure when they state that the average homeowner spent around $4,150 on utilities, or about $350 a month.

But don’t let these numbers scare you. Utility costs can vary depending on your location, the size and features of your house, and how much you use them overall.

Homeowners Association (HOA) Fees

Nowadays, many communities have a homeowners association that you will likely have to join, which means you will need to pay a monthly fee to that association. 

HOA fees generally pay for the following services shared by neighbors or community members:  

  • repair of shared community buildings 
  • neighborhood walkways or roads
  • upkeep of common areas
  • landscaping or weather-related services (such as lawn care or snow removal). 

Monthly HOA fees are often $200 – $300, but the exact cost is dependent on the extent of shared spaces and services your community offers. The fewer community spaces and services available, the lower your HOA fee will tend to be. 

In some cases, HOAs will ask you to pay a special assessment if an unforeseen emergency expense arises and they don’t have funds set aside to cover the cost. If this occurs, your HOA will request the special assessment fee in addition to your typical monthly HOA fees.

If you’re considering moving into a neighborhood with an HOA, make sure you understand the regular dues (and special assessments) you’ll have to pay.

Internal Upkeep: Maintenance 

Homeownership comes with the responsibility to fix things that need fixin’. This is where maintenance costs come in. If some part of your home needs to be replaced, cleaned, or otherwise serviced, you will need to have the money (and time) set aside to get things working as they should. 

According to a 2021 index from Thumbtack, a home services organization, the average homeowner should “budget $4,886 for a single-family home—up about $450 from last year, in part due to labor and material shortages.” 

The above price estimate may seem daunting to new homebuyers, but be aware that this estimate is a result of the past few years of unique, global circumstances. As things continue to fall back into normalcy, so should maintenance expenses. 

Here are the most common repairs and maintenance services homeowners need:

  • water damage
  • roof issue
  • HVAC care
  • plumbing problems
  • pest removal

If you want to be as prepared as possible to cover these costs if they arise, a good rule of thumb is to save 1% of your home’s value each year. 

Renovation Costs

Renovation costs are also something new homeowners should consider. However, they are not a definite expense. If you feel the need to make aesthetic additions to your home in the form of painting, rearranging, or upgrading, be sure to set aside enough funds for your home makeover to go smoothly. 

Though renovation is not a requirement, it can be a great investment, as many of these projects can help boost your home’s value. MortgageRight also has an awesome Renovation Loan Program to help you fund any renovations you might want to undertake. 

Financial Preparedness Is The RIGHT Way To Approach Homeownership

Homeownership is rewarding, but it’s not something you should jump into unprepared. If you need more help navigating the ins and outs of homeownership expenses, or you’re ready to put your money where your mouth is, contact us here, and we’ll get you started!

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Down Payment First-time Homebuyer Homebuying Mortgages Pre-approval Purchase

Upfront Underwriting: A Better Way to Pre-approval

Getting approved for a mortgage without knowing which home you want to purchase might seem like a pipe dream. But MortgageRight is in the business of making the impossible a reality! Let’s look at how an underwritten pre-approval will allow you to get conditionally approved for a mortgage even if a home hasn’t caught your eye yet. 

How Does It Work?

Upfront underwritingalso known as To-Be-Determined (TBD) Pre-approval, is a method that sends the necessary information to an underwriter at the beginning of the mortgage process instead of at the end. This way, a lender can give you conditional approval of a dollar amount before you have a house picked out.  

Which Documents Will Be Reviewed?

Much like traditional loan underwriting, the upfront underwriting process requires documentation that supports your financial stability to ensure a successful pre-approval. To verify your eligibility, an underwriter will review the following:

  • Past two years of W-2s
  • Most recent pay stubs
  • Past two years of tax returns
  • Credit report
  • Other asset documentation
Underwritten Pre-approval vs. Pre-qualification 

The most notable difference between a true pre-approval and pre-qualification is underwriting review. If you opt for pre-qualification, you must submit income, asset, and credit-related information that will initially land in the hands of your mortgage loan originator. At that point, your mortgage loan originator will review the information and determine which loan programs and amounts you could be qualified for on your home purchase. Because pre-qualification does not involve an underwriter reviewing your information at the onset, loan circumstances are subject to change as you move through the home-buying process.

On the other hand, our Underwritten Pre-approval Program allows for upfront underwriting and faster issuance of a conditional approval of a loan amount. That is why an underwritten pre-approval is so valuable. Instead of having an underwriter review your information later in the process, it is sent directly to them. This way, you can get a well-founded assurance about which loan program and maximum loan amount you can use to purchase the home of your dreams. 

What Are the Other Advantages of Underwritten Pre-approval?

One of the greatest advantages of underwritten pre-approval is securing an upfront review and verification of your credit, income, assets, and loan application by an underwriter before you decide on your perfect home. It’s a great way to get ahead of the game, understand your budget, and start shopping with certainty.

An underwritten pre-approval is the ticket to peace of mind because it drastically reduces surprises on your way to the closing table. Plus, an underwriter’s stamp of approval gives realtors and sellers confidence that issues with your mortgage loan are unlikely, which earns you more negotiating power over other potential buyers when you finally find the house you want. 

Is an Underwritten Pre-approval RIGHT for You?

Many homebuyers can benefit from getting pre-approved at the beginning of the home-buying process. Think the underwritten pre-approval route is RIGHT for you? Contact us here, and we’ll get you into a new home in no time!

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5 First-time Homebuyer Mistakes and How To Avoid Them

We get it. Today’s home-buying landscape can leave many first-time homebuyers wondering if they’re making the right choices when it comes to securing a mortgage. The good news is, you don’t have to go into this blind. Let’s look at five common mistakes homebuyers make and how to avoid them.

Making a down payment that’s too small

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t always have to make a 20% down payment to purchase a home. Some loan programs will allow you to put as little as 3.5% on the table, or no down payment at all. Now, you might be thinking, of course I’m going to go with the option that takes the least out of my pocket upfront. But paying a smaller down payment does not suit everyone’s needs. 

Smaller down payments might lessen the hit to your savings in the short term, but you will be left with larger monthly mortgage payments as a result. On the flip side, going into a home purchase with a larger down payment might deplete funds you had saved up for other situations.

Use this advice to avoid a setback:  The answer to the question “which down payment amount is best?” comes down to one thing—your judgment. You’ll want to decide on a down payment (and supporting loan program) that will guarantee a monthly mortgage payment you’re satisfied with. If you’re aiming for a higher down payment, save more beforehand. If a lower down payment is more your style, make sure your finances can withstand a higher monthly payment.  

Not checking credit reports and correcting errors

Your credit report is one of the holy grail documents lenders use when deciding whether to approve your loan and at what interest rate. If there are any errors, unknown or otherwise, in your credit report, it could lead to a lender landing you with a higher interest rate than you anticipate. That’s why it’s so important to make sure your credit report is accurate. 

Use this advice to avoid a setback: Now more than ever, it’s easier to get access to your credit report. Request a free credit report from the three main credit bureaus to check for discrepancies. From there, you can dispute any errors you notice. 

Ignoring VA, USDA, & FHA loan programs

Making a small down payment is at the top of the list for many first-time homebuyers. But they aren’t always aware of the benefits that come with government-backed loan programs. VA, USDA, and FHA loans often make it easier to buy a home by requiring as little as zero down. 

Use this advice to avoid a setback:  Learn how these loan programs can benefit you: 

  • VA – For the majority of military borrowers, the VA loan program is the most beneficial. These versatile, $0-down payment mortgages have made it possible for more than 24 million service members to achieve their dream of homeownership. 
  • USDA – A USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) loan is a government-backed loan that allows lenders to offer borrowers lower rates and no down payment. This loan aims to boost rural economies and build a better quality of life for rural communities across the nation. The USDA makes this possible by creating a more affordable option for families looking to buy a new home. 
  • FHA – An FHA loan is a mortgage insured by the Federal Housing Administration. With a minimum 3.5% down payment for borrowers and a wider range of acceptable credit scores, FHA loans are popular among first-time homebuyers who have little savings or have credit challenges.
Emptying your savings

For most homebuyers, savings are an integral part of the home-buying process. That’s why you should make sure you have enough funds stashed away to pay for the cost that comes with a home purchase. 

Having ample savings is especially important for borrowers who buy older or previously owned homes. Why? Because more often than not, home repairs or renovations will be on your to-do list, and if you blow through your savings, you might find yourself dealing with a leaky roof longer than you want to. 

Use this advice to avoid a setback: Be sure to save enough money to make your down payment, pay for closing costs and moving expenses, and tackle any repairs that may crop up. Your lender will provide estimates of closing costs. MortgageRight also has a great Renovation Loan option that you can make the most of!

Applying for credit too soon

Once you apply for a mortgage, the financial choices you make between that moment and the date you close on your home are crucial. During this period, you shouldn’t make any financial decision involving opening new lines of credit.  

 Use this advice to avoid a setback:  If you need to get a new credit card, finance a new car, or make any other large purchase using credit, be sure to do it after your mortgage loan closes to avoid any unwanted surprises.

Make the RIGHT choice with us!

Mistakes are a part of life, but they don’t have to be a part of your home-buying experience. If you have any questions about the do’s and don’ts of getting a mortgage, or you’re ready to take that first step, contact us today, and we’ll guide you home.

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Down Payment First-time Homebuyer Homebuying Homebuying Tips Mortgages

PMI vs. MIP: A Guide to Mortgage Insurance

Mortgage insurance is a gateway to homeownership. It adds an extra layer of accessibility for those who can’t put forward a sizable down payment. By paying mortgage insurance in addition to the monthly mortgage payment, a borrower can buy the home of their dreams with less than 20% down. 

Private mortgage insurance (PMI) and a mortgage insurance premium (MIP) are the two most common types of mortgage insurance. Though these types of mortgage insurance are prevalent, which one you get depends on a variety of factors. 

PMI vs. MIP: What Are They?

PMI

Private mortgage insurance is a cost only applicable to conventional (or non-government-backed) loans. PMI is an “assurance fee” typically applied to monthly payments if a borrower cannot put 20% or more down on the home they purchase. PMI acts as a buffer for lenders when the risk of default is on the table while making homeownership possible for borrowers who can only put a small percentage down on the home they want. 

MIP

A mortgage insurance premium is much like PMI, but it only applies to government-backed (FHA) loans, and it is required no matter your down-payment amount. This mortgage insurance consists of an annual MIP and UFMIP (upfront mortgage insurance premium). 

Notable Differences Between PMI And MIP

Beyond the type of loan each mortgage insurance policy applies to, there are other notable differences to keep in mind. 

Can You Cancel?

If you put down less than 20% on a conventional loan, mortgage insurance is something you will more than likely have to pay. However, mortgage insurance payments change when you acquire 20% equity in your home. When you reach this equity benchmark, you can request that your lender remove PMI from your mortgage. Even borrowers who get caught up in the motions of paying PMI alongside their mortgage and forget to request a stop on PMI have the chance to see it go. 

PMI is automatically canceled once you reach 22% equity based on your original appraised value. As your home value increases, you can request the lender remove PMI if a new appraisal demonstrates the equity is 20% or more of the appraised value. 

This is great news for most borrowers who pay PMI, but things work a little differently for those who have FHA loans. Typically, the MIP can’t be canceled on this government-backed loan and is a payment that remains for the duration of the loan regardless of equity. 

If the MIP payments tacked onto FHA loans aren’t for you, there are still other options. When your equity reaches 20% or more, you can refinance your home with a conventional loan and no PMI. 

Upfront Costs

An FHA loan is a mortgage option that requires both an upfront mortgage insurance premium (UFMIP) and MIP.

With this loan, UFMIP is 1.75% of the amount borrowed. It can either be paid in full at closing or added to the loan amount. 

PMI, however, is typically paid annually, with a portion included in each monthly mortgage payment. This prevents you from paying any upfront costs.

Annual Costs

Those who finance their home with an FHA loan will pay an annual MIP. This falls between 0.45% and 1.05% of the loan amount. 

Alternatively, the PMI rate is determined by your down payment amount and creditworthiness. PMI rates are typically between 0.58% and 1.86% of the loan amount.

PMI vs. MIP: Which One Is RIGHT For You?

Whether PMI or MIP, mortgage insurance is a payment that many borrowers will come across on their home-buying journey. But it doesn’t have to hold you back from getting your perfect home! Contact us here, and we’ll help you navigate the ins and outs of mortgage insurance with ease!

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First-time Homebuyer Homebuying Homebuying Tips Loans Market Analysis Mortgages Pre-approval Purchase

Top 3 Ways Remote Work Is Changing Homebuying

Throughout history, our home spaces have evolved alongside our workplaces. And as telecommunication and global connection continue to thrive, more people than ever are dropping the commute and firing up their laptops to put in a good day’s work. But what does this change in the workplace mean for up-in-coming homebuyers entering the housing market? Let’s find out! 

How remote work is changing home-buying behavior

When searching for the perfect home, the commute to work has been an integral part of most homebuyers’ decision-making process, and that remains true in today’s home-buying landscape. A 2021 study done by Realtor.com provides insight into homebuyers’ willingness to trade in longer commute times for more affordable homes in more desirable areas.

But with the emergence of remote work across the nation, the “this-for-that” mentality has less influence on homebuyers. Homebuyers that originally struggled to find homes that fit both their price point and desired commute time now have the opportunity to be more flexible because:

  • Majority of recent homebuyers (Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X) prefer remote work.
  • About four-in-ten recent homebuyers work remotely due to pre- and post-pandemic conditions.
  • Younger workers are driving real estate markets.
  • Close to half of recent homebuyers report companies embracing remote work.

This is great news for homebuyers who want to forgo city living altogether while maintaining their current job. If you’ve had your eyes set on a suburban or rural area, the freedom that remote work provides (and the benefits of a USDA loan) can help you snag the home of your dreams.

More first-time buyers are entering the market

The influx of remote work is also helping individuals who could not otherwise purchase a home enter the housing market. According to Zillow, remote work could open the door to homeownership for nearly two million renters to buy starter homes in less expensive areas outside of the cities they work in. 

The Mortgage Bankers Association explains how this reshaping of the housing market could take place. More than 10% of renters who may have struggled to afford a home within the city limits of San Francisco could afford a home within the metro area (but beyond an acceptable 5-day-per-week commuting distance). With current interest rates at an all-time low and the ability to move out of high cost-of-living areas, current renters who work remotely have more opportunities than ever to become homeowners.

In-home requirements are more specific

The areas people choose to live in aren’t the only thing changing with the rise of remote work. There is also a noticeable shift in what homebuyers are looking for in their homes. 

Having a dedicated office space is a top priority for homebuyers working remotely. Homes with an extra bedroom, a finished attic or basement, or designated office space are beginning to overshadow previously sought-after amenities. Home theatres and gyms are losing their luster in this new era of home buying because the more time buyers spend working at home, the more willing they are to reap the benefits of an in-home experience from a public place. 

Need a New Home to Work From?

No matter where you get your work done, any time is the RIGHT time to start your home-buying journey. If remote work has become a permanent part of your life, you don’t want to miss out on buying the perfect home for your needs. Re-invent what home looks like for you by getting a quote or pre-approval letter today

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USDA Loans: How to Break the Big-City Blues with a Rural Relocation

With the increase in housing prices and the decrease in peace of mind, now, more than ever, rural residential living is taking precedence over living in metropolitan areas. If your sights aren’t set on settling down in the big city, the USDA loan may be the perfect mortgage option to help you purchase your dream home! 

What is a USDA loan & how do I qualify for one?

A USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) loan is a government-backed loan that allows lenders to offer borrowers lower rates and no down payment. This loan aims to boost rural economies and build a better quality of life for rural communities across the nation. The USDA makes this possible by creating a more affordable option for families looking to buy a new home. 

The process of getting a USDA loan is not much different from other loans on the market, but there are some requirements you need to be aware of:

  • The USDA must approve the lender.
  • With a USDA loan, an appraisal is not only required to determine the fair market value of the home, but it must adhere to additional guidelines stipulated by the USDA. 
  • You will only be allowed to purchase homes in a specified area using a USDA loan. 
  • Approval for a USDA loan may take a little longer because you have to be approved by both your lender and the USDA.
What homes can I purchase with a USDA loan?
Acceptable property types

To be approved for a USDA loan, the property you’re seeking to purchase must serve as your primary residence. This means that it cannot be a farm, a vacation home, a secondary home (or one you intend to rent out), or an investment property. 

Note: If the property you intend to purchase is a primary residence, it can have an “income-producing” building (e.g., a barn or a silo) as long as it is not used for commercial purposes. 

Appraisal requirements

When trying to secure a USDA home loan, certain criteria must be met when it’s time for an appraisal. These include but are not limited to the following: 

  • Home must be built on a structurally sound foundation
  • Quality roofing 
  • Must be easily accessed from a road
  • Functional electrical & plumbing systems
  • Functional heating & cooling systems

There is a multitude of home types you can purchase using a USDA loan. Townhouses, condos, newly constructed homes, preexisting homes, and manufactured homes are viable options as long as they meet the previously mentioned requirements. 

Find the home of your dreams
Pre-approval first

Now that you have a better understanding of what type of home qualifies for a USDA loan, you might think you’re ready to start home-hunting. But it’s always better to begin searching for a home after you have been preapproved. Pre-approval will give you a clearer understanding of the type of home you can afford and the budgeting choices you may need to make. 

Location matters

Once you’re preapproved, it will be easier to search for that home you just can’t live without. And when you find it, you need to be sure that it is located in a USDA-approved area. Generally, these are homes in communities with smaller population centers outside of a city or other metropolitan areas. Some suburbs may qualify as well.

Think you might have trouble determining which areas are approved? Well, the USDA property eligibility map makes the process easy. Simply type in the property address, and the map will show you whether the desired location is approved. The map also provides insight into surrounding areas that may or may not be USDA-approved. If your first choice doesn’t fit the USDA’s location criteria, a home in the surrounding area may qualify. 

Note: Even if you have taken all the necessary steps when choosing your perfect home, the USDA Rural Development department has the final say in determining the property’s eligibility upon receiving your application.

Applying for a USDA loan 

You’ll need to apply with a USDA-approved lender to purchase a home with a USDA loan, and MortgageRight is here to help make that purchase a possibility. We will work in conjunction with the Rural Development department, guiding you through the entire application process and getting you closer to having those keys in hand. 

The RIGHT USDA Lender

Ready to make a rural community your home? We can help you secure the USDA loan you need. Click here to get started. 

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First-time Homebuyer Homebuying Homebuying Tips Mortgages Pre-approval

Pre-qualification vs. Pre-approval: What’s The Difference?

The mortgage process is filled with systems and terminology that the average homebuyer may not be familiar with. While preparing to apply for a mortgage, you may encounter the terms pre-approval and pre-qualification for the first time, and it is vital that you understand the individual role each of them plays in your home search. 

Pre-qualification: What does it mean?

Pre-qualification is an initial step in the mortgage-seeking process. It typically involves describing your credit, debt, income, and asset situation to a prospective lender. After reviewing the information, the lender will give you an estimated loan amount you can expect to receive. 

Most lenders (including MortgageRight) are flexible when it comes to this part of the mortgage process and will give the option to complete it over the phone, online, or in person. 

Though pre-qualification is not a requirement when applying for a mortgage, it’s an exercise in helping you understand your financial fitness regarding a mortgage. It’s also the perfect time to learn more about the different mortgage options available. 

Pre-approval: What does it mean?

Much like the pre-qualification process, you will need to provide your lender with information regarding your financial history and stability. The difference here is that financial documents are required and will serve as proof of your mortgage readiness.

Here’s a list of commonly requested documentation:

  • W-2s (a current pay stub)
  • A summary of your assets 
  • Your total monthly expenses
  • A copy of your mortgage statement and home insurance policy if you already own real estate

After assessing the documentation, verifying your financial fitness, and running your data through an automated underwriting system, your lender will send you a pre-approval letter. This letter details the amount, type, and terms of the mortgage loan your lender is willing to offer. 

While a pre-approval offer is not a guarantee, it does act as proof of your commitment to buying a home and can give you leverage in a competitive market. 

Choose What’s Best for You

Whether you’re unsure about your financial standing when it comes to getting a mortgage or you’re ready to move on to pre-approval, MortgageRight can help you every step of the way. Call us at (205) 776-8401 to discuss the next steps in pre-qualification or get pre-approved today!

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Budgeting Down Payment First-time Homebuyer Homebuying Homebuying Tips Mortgages Pre-approval Purchase Self-Employed

How to Get a Mortgage if You’re Self-Employed

You’ve finally put some action behind the go-getter title your friends gave you and started a successful business. Now you’re looking for the perfect place to wind down after putting in the work. But as a self-employed individual, are there extra hoops you’ll need to jump through to buy your new home? Let’s find out. 

Does Being Self-Employed Make it Harder to Get a Mortgage?

The answer depends on what you consider harder. The biggest difference between a self-employed and an otherwise employed person is the documentation a lender may request to increase your chances of approval. 

When applying for a mortgage while self-employed, you need to be realistic about your income and what you can afford, prepared to submit more paperwork, and willing to pay constant attention to detail. 

Understanding Your Unique Self-Employed Situation

When assessing a self-employed borrower, most lenders will want to have a good understanding of the nature and location of your business, your business’ financial viability when it comes to current and future income generation, and your personal income stability.  

Employment Verification

Employment verification is the first step in proving you are successfully self-employed. Documents verifying self-employment status can include written communication from the following:

  • Current (and past) clients indicating services performed
  • A letter from your licensed CPA, or tax preparer
  • A professional organization that can attest to your membership
  • Any state or business license that you hold
  • Evidence of worker compensation and insurance for your business
  • A Doing Business As (DBA) issued at least 2 years prior to your application date

Income Documentation

You’re much more likely to be approved for a mortgage if you can provide proof of a steady income. You may think you only need a few tax documents to breeze through the income verification portion of the approval process, but there have been recent changes in requirements, and you need to be prepared.

In June 2020, mortgage organizations Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac instated specific income verification practices for self-employed borrowers. According to a bulletin posted by the organizations, “the mortgage file must include a written analysis of the self-employed income amount and justification of the determination that the income used to qualify the borrower is stable.”

Because of these new stipulations, your lender will now ask for the following to verify your income:

  • 2 years of personal tax returns (this includes W-2s if you’re paid through your corporation)
  • An unaudited year-to-date (YTD) profit and loss statement that is signed by the borrower and reports business revenue (i.e., gross receipts or sales), expenses, and net income                      Note: The statement must cover the most recent month preceding the application received date.
  • 3 months business account statements no older than the latest two months represented on the YTD profit and loss statement                                                                                                                Note: Personal asset account statements evidencing business deposits and expenses may be used when the borrower owns a small business and does not have a separate business account.
The Road to Approval

Documentation is not the only thing you should consider when it’s time to submit your mortgage application. The road to approval may be clear of speedbumps if you have these four segments of your financial portfolio in order.

Credit Score

If there’s one thing self-employed mortgage applicants share with every other applicant out there, it’s what lenders will view as an acceptable credit score. 

Lenders look to your credit score for information on your debt repayment history, and a better score may equal more favorable loan terms, so be sure to keep your credit score as high as possible at all times.

Debt-To-Income-Ratio 

When it comes to getting a mortgage while self-employed, underwriters look at your existing debts instead of your income. This is how your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) is calculated.

Your DTI is a measurement of your income against your recurring debts, and it determines how much money you have available for potential monthly mortgage payments. 

DTI may hold more weight for self-employed borrowers because lenders might view tax write-offs as lowered income. This could result in existing debts becoming a larger share of your approved budget. 

If your DTI is 50% or higher, it may be wise to pay some current debts down before you apply for a mortgage. 

Down Payment

Your lender will also require proof that you have the funds for a down payment, miscellaneous fees, and enough funds to cover the initial monthly mortgage payments. 

This is why having a thorough understanding of your financial situation is so important. If you know that you will not be able to afford these expenses or you’re not willing to make the necessary financial adjustments, you should hold off on applying for a mortgage.

Separate Personal & Business Expenses

People who own businesses tend to intermingle business and personal debts, but this can backfire on those seeking a mortgage. The increase in credit usage may hurt your mortgage application if you charge business purchases, such as office phones or other supplies, to your personal cards or accounts.  

Keeping your business and personal accounts separate will more accurately reflect your financial profile (and increase your chances of being approved for a mortgage). 

Ready to Be a Self-Employed Homeowner?

Landing a mortgage while self-employed doesn’t have to be difficult! All you need is the RIGHT information and the RIGHT preparation to become a homeowner. Think you’re ready to take the next home-buying step? Click here to get started. 

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Budgeting Credit Down Payment First-time Homebuyer Homebuying Tips Loans Mortgages Purchase

How to Get a Mortgage in 2021: A Step-by-Step Guide 

For many people, getting a mortgage can feel like learning to walk all over again—that is, if they go into the process uninformed. Information is what separates the runners from the crawlers, and knowing how to prepare will make it that much easier to walk into the front door of your dream home.

Ready to make strides in the home-buying process? Let’s look at how to get a mortgage, step-by-step. 

Step 1: Financial Preparedness is Key

When looking to get a mortgage, be sure you’re financially prepared to take on homeownership. Buying a home is a major investment, and you need to consider how it will affect your finances. Can you save enough for a down payment? Are you deep in debt? Can you cover closing costs? 

If you answered no to any of those questions, you may want to improve your financial situation before applying for a mortgage. 

Additionally, lenders take a close look at your credit score when determining your mortgage eligibility; so make sure your credit score is in good condition before applying for a mortgage. If your credit score needs a little work, give it a boost by paying off debts or holding off on opening new lines of credit until you can secure a mortgage. 

Step 2: Decide Which Mortgage Loan Type Suits Your Needs

There are many loan types out there with different eligibility requirements, so it’s best to learn which one will fit your unique home-buying needs before you apply. 

Here are some loan types you might be interested in:

  • FHA loans have features, such as low down payment options, flexible credit & income guidelines, and a fixed rate, that may make it easier for first-time homebuyers to achieve the dream of homeownership.
  • USDA loans are popular among today’s home buyers because the USDA program offers no-money-down financing where homebuyers can finance 100% of a home’s purchase price.
  • Conventional loans are home loans not insured by the federal government. This type is best suited for borrowers who have a strong credit score, stable employment history, and can make a down payment of at least 3% of the home’s cost. 
  • VA loans are most beneficial for the vast majority of military borrowers. These versatile, $0-down payment mortgages have made it possible for more than 24 million service members to achieve their dream of homeownership. 
  • Jumbo loans are for home prices that exceed federal loan limits. These are best suited for affluent buyers with good credit, a high income, and who can offer a substantial down payment. 

Fixed or Adjustable Rates?

Fixed-rate mortgages keep the same interest rate over the life of your loan. They also provide a consistent monthly payment on your mortgage and come in 15-year, 20-year, or 30-year loans. 

Adjustable-rate mortgages have flexible interest rates that change with market conditions. These come with a certain level of risk but are beneficial if the home is temporary. 

Step 3: What Documentation Is Needed?

You’ll need to have all of your documentation in order before you apply for a mortgage. Here’s a rundown of the paperwork your lender will request.

Proof of Income

A lender will ask for a variety of documents to verify your income. Here are some items you might need to provide:

  • 2+ years of federal tax returns
  • 2 most recent W-2s and pay stubs
  • If you’re self-employed, 1099 forms or profit and loss statements, or other additional documents
  • If applicable, legal documentation that proves you have been receiving child support, alimony, or other types of income for at least 6 months

Credit Documentation

A lender will always ask for verbal or written permission to view your credit report. While looking at your credit report, lenders will keep an eye out for factors that might exclude you from getting a mortgage (e.g., bankruptcy or foreclosure). If bankruptcy or foreclosure are present on your credit report, you might have to wait a number of years before you’ll become eligible for a mortgage.

Proof of Assets & Liabilities 

It’s possible that a lender might request some of the following documents to verify your assets: 

  • Up to 60 days’ worth of account statements that confirm the assets in your checking and savings accounts
  • The most recent statement from your retirement or investment account
  • Documents highlighting the sale of any assets you released before you applied (e.g., a copy of title transfer for a sold car)
How To Get A Mortgage With MortgageRight
Step 4: Preapproval

Preapproval is the process of learning how much a lender is willing to lend you to purchase your home, and there are some big advantages of getting preapproved before starting the mortgage application process. 

For one, it shows sellers that you can make a solid offer up to a specific price. Preapproval also gives you a better understanding of your mortgage costs because lenders will determineand provide details on your interest rate, APR, fees, and other closing costs.

During the preapproval process, MortgageRight will seek to provide the mortgage option(s) we think best fit your needs. We will show you different mortgage solutions and how much you can qualify for.

Step 5: Submit your Application

Even if you have already been preapproved, you still need to formally submit your most recent financial documents when you apply for a mortgage. Outside of the previously mentioned Proof of Income documents, you may also need to submit the following:

  • Proof of other sources of income
  • Recent bank statements
  • Details on long-term debts (e.g., car or student loans)
  • ID and Social Security number
  • Documentation of recent deposits in your bank accounts
  • Documentation of any funds or gifts used for a down payment

*Depending on the type of mortgage you’re getting, other documentation may be required. 

Within three business days, MortgageRight will give you an initial loan estimate. It consists of the following information:

  • The cost of the loan
  • Associated fees and closing costs
  • Interest rate and APR
Step 6: Enter the Underwriting Process

During this process, an underwriter will verify your assets and finances with the documentation you have provided during your application submittal.

MortgageRight will also take steps to verify details about the property you want to purchase:

  • Order an appraisal 
  • Verify the home’s title
  • Schedule any state-required inspections. 

When underwriting is finalized, you’ll receive a Closing Disclosure document.

A Closing Disclosure will tell you important information about your mortgage, including your monthly payment, down payment, interest rate, and closing costs. If you have any questions regarding the Closing Disclosure, you may discuss them with your Loan Originator prior to the scheduled closing date. 

Step 7: Close on Your Home

When your loan gets approved, you will be scheduled to attend closing at the closing agent’s office. This closing session is the perfect time to ask any last-minute questions you may have about your loan. Remember to bring your Closing Disclosure, a valid photo ID, and your down payment. Once you sign on that dotted line, you will officially become a homeowner!

Are You Ready To Secure A Mortgage?

A lot of organization, documentation, and time goes into getting a mortgage, but if you prepare as much as you can beforehand, things should go smoothly for you. Think you’re ready to take that first step toward getting a mortgage? We’ll walk beside you! Click here to get started!